Holy shit, Halloween was awesome wasn’t it? I can’t believe it has already come and gone; this is a holiday I look forward to throughout the year, and it always passes by in the blink of an eye (that’s coming from someone who has been celebrating for two months, planned a vacation to Halloween Horror Nights around the holiday, and decorated three different times for household decorations, parties, and trick-or-treating).
I’m not going to lie and say that the month of October wasn’t grueling, though. Halloween Fifteen might seem easy enough – get a bunch of people to write up their own posts and post them on the site – but it’s a lot more complicated than that. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to do the Halloween Fifteen, and also blogging in the social media age in general.
1. Reach out to people about Halloween Fifteen
The first step is assembling the players, and this is a lot harder now than it ever was before, even when social media connects us. Part of the problem is that people just aren’t writing as much these days; others are very busy with their own Halloween festivities. Also, Facebook makes it harder for Pages to reach friends and acquaintances. This year I worked almost solely with Reddit, where a few people (I mean a few – I’m not a huge fan of Reddit’s horror community, as I’ve stated before) expressed interest in participating.
2. Collect all of the posts
This is another tough step, because we all get busy right before Halloween and October sneaks up on you like a machete-wielding slasher. At this point, I attempt to reconnect with everyone who wanted to write a post. Sometimes you get them back, sometimes you don’t; sometimes they’re not on time. However, Halloween Fifteen Part IV was mostly a success in this regard, with only three or four films that were not covered by a guest poster.
3. Prep the posts and schedule
This is my biggest downfall – I don’t really work in advance. Normally the day you read one of my posts is the day I wrote it, and scheduling is something I would very much like to do. It’s not easy, though, especially when films need to be viewed on a daily basis. For Halloween Fifteen, I was basically prepping each post either the night before or the day of posting, and that was a tough schedule. Not only that, I was also watching each film the night before as well, when in reality I should already have had my own posts ready to roll. Not the easiest schedule, and sometimes downright grueling – but we made it.
4. Create specialized pictures for each post
This is something I try to do to make the Halloween Fifteen posts stand out from the others on the site, plus give each guest contributor something a little extra besides website space. I’ll be honest with you – I’m not the best graphic designer in the world, so I don’t really expect people to see my images and think they’re bona fide works of art. But it’s something I like to put extra time into, and hopefully people appreciate these colorful takes on regular film stills.
5. Publish and share across social media land
Social media might seem beneficial, but it’s often simply stressful. Trying to figure out the right keywords, where it’s appropriate to post – it’s all a popularity contest, and I’ll confess I’m not winning any awards in that respect. Every blog post gets shared to almost every social media website you can think of, between Facebook, Google+ and its groups, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, and our very own new HubofHorrors.com! This takes time, it takes patience, and most of all, it takes the right phrasing to get the post noticed. Still haven’t quite figured that one out yet.
Estimated time of prep for each Halloween Fifteen post: 2 hours
Enough with the behind-the-scenes stuff, though. Let’s get a roundup of each post and contributor!
1. Hellraiser (FeatheredPanda)
“The narrow stairs, zig-zagging upwards in short turns make a quick escape all but impossible and up the intimacy of character encounters. Larry cuts his hand here, Julia seduces her victims here and this is where she finally meets her demise, shoved into a corner up the first few steps. Besides being an inherently claustrophobia-inducing place, the staircase is very nondistinct. The only memorable detail in this set is the perversely-placed statue of Christ, bound to observe all the wretchedness going on below him, unable to turn away his gaze.”
2. Hellraiser (The Moon is a Dead World)
“Hellraiser speaks to audiences, then, because it documents those taboos that many are afraid to explore. It also expertly handles the fine line between pain and pleasure, creating an eroticism around that fetish even when its characters cross that boundary. Still, Hellraiser‘s villains aren’t necessarily evil: as Pinhead says, they can be demons to some and angels to others. The viewer has to draw their own conclusions about how to understand these creatures, and if the risk is worth the reward. In the film’s case, the answer is yes: it has such sights to show you.”
3. The Orphanage (Javier Solera)
“The Orphanage will scare you with a path of footprints, a line of light under the door, a sheet moving on the bed. Director JA Bayona said that he wanted to throw back to the Spanish cinema of the 70s with obvious references to genre classics like The Changeling (1980). It is precisely the purity of this proposal that made The Orphanage unique in a time when horror is, more than ever, based on digital effects and sound impact.”
4. The Orphanage (The Moon is a Dead World)
“But the most terrifying parts of The Orphanage come from its human story about tragedy. The film is one that requires two viewings, not because it’s difficult to understand but because the film completely changes on that second watch. It’s still scary, but in subsequent viewings the horror does not come from the ghosts; instead, it comes from The Orphanage‘s depiction of lingering grief, of parental fears come to life, of human cruelty based on inconsolable loss. Bayona does not give the viewer a happy ending; it’s a somber but true to life conclusion, one where tragedy takes hold and doesn’t let go.”
5. You’re Next (Eashan R. Kotha)
“All in all, while the other characters in the film may not be as strong. At some moments, I found myself laugh at the absurdity of the situation. At first, I wasn’t sure if it was intentional, but sure enough, You’re Next is classified as a black comedy slasher film. Wingard may possess a knack for subtle dark humor. I do have to give credence to the film for subverting the trope of victims getting senselessly slashed by shady characters. It was certainly unique to make Erin the competent protagonist, eliminating her assailants one by one.”
6. You’re Next (The Moon is a Dead World)
“You’re Next has fun with its character tropes the most, pitting a number of unlikable characters against each other early on. Besides Erin (Sharni Vinson) and, for a little while, Crispian (AJ Bowen), there’s no one to root for here, and actually the actors do a great job of selling that. It’s intentional, though; the viewer is supposed to feel closely aligned with Erin, the final girl who knows how to get things done and is the outsider observing the odd family dynamic. It’s important that the audience remains distant from the family, like a guest at a Thanksgiving dinner forced to watch as relationships, separated by distance for most of the year, are renewed and sometimes wrecked in the short span of an hour.”
7. 28 Days Later (Gabriella Garbero)
“One of the most interesting things about 28 Days Later is its relative stillness and quiet. Instead of a high energy, action-packed film one would expect knowing it has zombies, 28 Days Later delves into the quiet moments between fighting that would happen in a real-life situation of the film’s scale. Most of the action happens in frenetic, minute-long sequences that are over before you can take a breath, so the breaks in action are welcome, but the downtime lasts so long that it keeps the audience on edge, much like the characters. Additionally, Danny Boyle filmed 28 Days Later on cheap digital video cameras to add to the grittiness of the story so it feels like we are experiencing things along with the characters, not being shown a cinematically flawless story. We experience the quiet parts and whispered conversations, which only makes the scenes with zombies more jarring.”
8. 28 Days Later (The Moon is a Dead World)
“As the film progresses, though, Garland’s script turns into a story about humanity, with all of the characters dealing differently with the chaos of their new world. Not everyone adapts, of course, and 28 Days Later documents how easy it is to lose one’s mind, how simple it can be for humans – lacking rigidity, laws, and basic morality as they’re forced to murder those closest to them – to surrender their ethics to become quite similar to the rage-infected people they’re fighting against. Boyle’s final cathartic climax shows Jim in a state that mirrors the infected, reduced to an animalistic status as he fights against a corrupt group of soldiers.”
9. The Exorcist (Couch Potato Psychologist)
“Sure it was scary, but I didn’t pass out, made it all the way to the end in fact. But when I left the cinema I felt unnerved, like it was still holding on to me. From the cinema I made a long walk across the carpark and fog had flooded in, obscuring the ground. It was such a normal thing, but something in my head attached the fog to the supernatural, and that is what the Exorcist was so good at, getting you to question the things that you had always held dear. For the Exorcist it was about questioning safety, the innocence of youth and faith.”
10. The Exorcist (The Moon is a Dead World)
“Even if the viewer doesn’t take Regan’s possession literally, Friedkin (and Blatty, who adapted the screenplay) explore people at their lowest points, with Regan even blaspheming Father Karras’ mother directly following her death. It’s a horrible showing from humanity, and The Exorcist finds the worst in its characters, even pulling out terrible moments from Chris and Karras. That the human mind can be decimated like this is truly horrifying, and The Exorcist capitalizes on it.”
11. Coraline (Kevin Lovell)
“‘Coraline’ certainly isn’t a Halloween centered film and is also considered a family film in most regards, yet don’t let that deter you when considering adding it to your Halloween viewing lineup as it should fit in as perfectly as the rest of your genre selections. Complete with a horrifyingly beautiful world, a frightening villain and some eerie images, along with a fantastic overall adventure and even a few supernatural aspects, ‘Coraline’ makes for a splendid Halloween movie selection, and one the family households can also more comfortably enjoy with the little ones.”
12. Coraline (The Moon is a Dead World)
“So besides the animation and the often eerie imagery throughout the film, Coraline becomes a classic simply because of its snapshot of a child’s life, dealing with the encroachment of adult problems and the realization that one can and should settle for something less than perfect. It also reinforces the importance of never losing the spark in your eye that makes you… well… you.”
13. Cat People (Freddie Young)
“While both versions of CAT PEOPLE are worth watching for different reasons, I get more out of the original 1942 version over its 1982 remake. The 1942 version takes a “less-is-more” approach that is still very effective today, while the 1982 version is more focused on its sexual energy over telling a more interesting narrative. If you want to feel a chill up and down your spine, stick with the original. If you want to feel a chill in your pants, go with the remake. I respect the remake for taking a different approach about that “dreaded female sexuality” and having good performances. But I’ll take the original any day of the week, as it gives me a lot with so little.”
14. Cat People (The Moon is a Dead World)
“It’s hard to imagine that any viewer wouldn’t find Cat People‘s finale immensely saddening; there’s unrequited love, infidelity, an impending divorce. Eventually, there’s even a suicide by panther, the final act by Irena that involves her literally opening a cage to let a cat out. It’s the last acceptance of her nature, one that results in death, and Cat People wallows in that tragedy. No good feelings will come from the film, but one thing it does offer is an intense examination of human frailty, one that is entirely psychological rather than explicitly horrifying.”
15. Alien (Mark Burridge)
“Overall, it is easy to understand how the film turned Ridley Scott into an acclaimed director and Sigourney Weaver into an icon. The originality of the scares, the quality of the filmmaking and effects, the believability of the acting and most of all, the unique vision that Scott brought to the film makes Alien one of the most worthwhile horror films ever made.”
16. Alien (The Moon is a Dead World)
“It makes sense that a cat would still be a vital member of the crew and the film. Alien, after all, encapsulates isolation and claustrophobia, and once the rest of her crew has been killed by the Xenomorph, Ripley clings dearly to Jones – even going so far as to save him while the alien stalks her and Mother threatens that the ship is going to self-destruct. He’s the only living thing left, the only thing that is not trying to actively kill her – even Mother is against her, with a mission to bring back the Xenomorph life form its top priority.”
17. Pet Sematary (Lindsey T. Stone)
“Pet Sematary has long been one of my favorite Stephen King films- I grew up on a busy road with parents who could not turn away any stray dog or cat that my sisters and I brought home. Death is hard to understand, and many of us face our first corpse as I did, in the form of a family pet on the side of the road. We all long for second chances, even if it means that our suffering will be prolonged. Perhaps it is these timeless themes that have lead to talk of a reboot but we will have to wait and see if an updated version can balance campy sets and true terror the way Mary Lambert managed in the original.”
18. Pet Sematary (The Moon is a Dead World)
“Pet Sematary is a film about the weight of those deaths and the effect it has on those who feel responsible. Most of the characters are, in some way, in mourning over an untimely passing. In one of the film’s most horrifying sequences, Rachel (Denise Crosby) is haunted by the memory of her sister, dying of spinal meningitis when she was just a little girl; the humanistic horror of Rachel’s story comes from her guilt, wherein she openly confesses to wishing her sister dead – who often terrorized her simply because of her deformed appearance and illness-related insanity – and then feeling culpable when her sister begins to die while Rachel is home alone.”
19. The Amityville Horror (The Moon is a Dead World)
“But what I find one of The Amityville Horror‘s strongest offerings to the horror genre is its treatment of the house as a character. The Amityville house has life, from the moment we see its facade to the end of the film when our protagonists are barely getting out with their lives. We see the house’s gruesome face-like exterior, the way the windows light up as shotgun blasts take the lives of victims; later, when the Lutz family first moves into the house, we see a sleeping dragon, covered in a bed of leaves as though its beauty is a costume designed to lure people in.”
20. The Ring (The Moon is a Dead World)
“But it’s not just Rachel who suffers for her curiosity. Her son Aidan (David Dorfman) and ex-husband Noah (Martin Henderson) are pulled into the danger, and from there The Ring becomes a lesson for Rachel not just in time management but also about her actions and the consequences they have on others. The Ring begins with Rachel investigating her niece’s mysterious death, basically exploiting that event in order to get a juicy story about a supposedly cursed video tape. She’s late to pick up her son from school; she puts journalism above integrity. And similarly, Noah is pushed into the same type of lesson – he’s also searching for the answers, not only for himself but to protect a son that he neglected to acknowledge for most of his life. Parenthood is a strong theme within The Ring, and Verbinski’s continual return to that idea – especially as it relates to Samara – makes the ending stick with viewers.”
21. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Kevin Lovell)
“Perhaps one of the most interesting things about Hooper’s original is the varying opinions on the film’s violent content. To this day genre fans are sure to see folks referencing ‘The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’ as bloody, graphic and unsettlingly gory, while the reality is in fact quite the opposite. The film actually keeps much of the violence and carnage off screen and is surprisingly tame in that regard. While the film may not be the bloodbath many seem to imply, that’s not to say it isn’t unsettling and incredibly effective, the lack of in your face gore only increasing the level of unease it exudes as the mind is allowed to contemplate the worst. This fact may also provide some explanation regarding the misconstrued recollection some folks have of the film as its effectiveness is undeniable and the general idea of the family’s behavior is quite unsettling and likely to be considered truly horrific around the time of its original theatrical release.”
22. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (The Moon is a Dead World)
“That’s what makes The Texas Chainsaw Massacre a classic – its dedication to gritty depraved realism, allowing the sadism of its storyline to play out without worrying about how much it might disturb the audience. And, on many levels, it’s deeply disturbing.”
23. The Shining (The Moon is a Dead World)
“Besides all of the other stuff you’ve come to love and recognize from The Shining, take a moment to stop and really listen to the score as it swells behind Nicholson’s increasingly torturous performance. Close your eyes, listen to the opening theme, and imagine the Overlook Hotel. Sinister, isn’t it?”
“Wan opts for minimalism, heightening his scares by planning them out in detail. There’s no fast edits here, no surprise jump cuts. Instead he lets the scenes linger, aided by strong acting from the entire cast; the Perron daughters, played by Shanley Caswell, Hayley McFarland, Joey King, Mackenzie Foy, and Kyla Deaver, all take turns in strong sequences, selling the horror with their expressions rather than explicit reveals. In turn, Livingston and Lili Taylor (playing Carolyn, the matriarch of the household who eventually will become inhabited by the evil witch) give the viewer a different, somewhat more disturbing, terror: the feeling of losing control of your family, losing a piece of their life that was supposed to be quaint and calm at their new countryside home.”
25. The Thing (The Moon is a Dead World)
“But The Thing is also about forcing oneself to trust in humanity, as MacReady and the rest of his surviving team fight to fend off the Thing’s attacks before it can settle into a frozen hibernation. They trust each other to blow the Thing to smithereens before it can leave the Antarctic tundra and spread to the rest of the world, and their heroism seemingly saves the Earth from a spreading plague that will only take somewhere upwards of 20,000 hours to infect everyone. The Thing may seem grim, but in a way it’s also kind of uplifting: its characters sacrifice themselves to freezing temperatures to allow humanity to continue, and there’s something impressive about the way Carpenter can juggle those two opposing feelings.”
There you have it! There’s all of this year’s Halloween Fifteen posts. I just want to thank all contributors for a very successful Halloween, and I hope to see you back next year!